Published on October 7th, 2010 | by Eli Clifton2
James Fallows: Existential Nuclear Threats Are Becoming Universal
The Atlantic’s James Fallows rebuts Jeffrey Goldberg’s blog post which quotes a Commentary article by Daniel Gordis. Gordis attempts to justify Israel’s aggressive, if not saber rattling, position towards Iran on the basis that a nuclear weapons possessing Iran would mean that:
Even if Israel does possess a second-strike capability, and even if the U.S. could be counted on to punish a nuclear attack on the Jewish state, the existential condition of the Jews would still have reverted to that experienced in pre-state Europe.
Fallows was struck by the fact that when you put aside the talk about Israel specific security, the statement is really a reflection of the universal predicament brought about by the proliferation of nuclear weapons.
He concludes that:
(a) that this is not a new, hypothetical, and Israeli-specific problem but a decades-old and very real problem already confronting most of humanity — notwithstanding all the special vulnerabilities of Israel’s situation. There is literally nothing that can assure any of us that we will not be killed tomorrow, by the millions, in an accidental or irrational nuclear exchange. As long as the weapons exist, the possibility remains. Deterrence and “confidence-building” have been the only ways to manage it. And (b) that a benefit of discussing the “existential” threat to Israel’s “sense of security” might be new attention to the comparable but broader threat to humanity as a whole.
It’s worth noting Fallows’s point that “deterrence and ‘confidence-building'”–which amount to a policy of containment– have historically been effective tools to manage nuclear rivalries. The threat to Israel from a nuclear armed Iran would not be an experience unique to Israel. Using Fallows’s line of reasoning, it’s worth asking if Israel’s response should be any different than any other country with nuclear weapons who has learned to peacefully coexist, thus far, with a nuclear armed rival.
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